With only one day left until absentee voting begins in Alabama, the Madison County circuit clerk’s office said in an answering machine message that the office won’t be staffed for receiving hand delivery of ballots until Sept. 21 — a full 12 days after the mandated date.
The chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, State Rep. Chris England, said the delay in opening the office amounts to “facilitating voter suppression” in Alabama’s third most populous county.
“Why does Madison County not want people to vote? The law is clear,” England said in a statement. “If voters in Madison County do not have access to vote on Wednesday, Madison County Circuit Clerk Debra Kizer is not only contradicting the orders of the Secretary of State but facilitating voter suppression and misleading her constituents.”
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, in a message to APR, confirmed that county offices should be open for hand delivery of absentee ballots by Sept. 9.
The statute England is referring to is Ala. Code § 17-11-3(a), which says, “Any qualified elector of this state may apply for and vote an absentee ballot by mail, by hand delivery, or by commercial carrier, as determined by rule by the Secretary of State.”
Fifty days have passed since Merrill issued an emergency rule allowing Alabama residents to vote absentee if they don’t feel comfortable going to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anyone wishing to vote by absentee may check the box on an absentee ballot request that reads, “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”
“Alabamians have spent decades fighting for the right to vote. It’s 2020 and we’re waging the same battles over targeted voter suppression that we faced over 50 years ago,” England said. “The Alabama Democratic Party will not stand idly by while even one vote is suppressed. The impact of one voice being silenced in this historic election affects all of us. Mrs. Kizer: let the people of Madison County vote.”